"It feels like we are the enemies of the Amazon." That's according to a senior environmental official in Brazil, where satellite images show a chunk of Amazon rainforest the size of a soccer field is being destroyed every minute. Speaking anonymously to the BBC, the official describes protections eroding and losses accelerating since President Jair Bolsonaro was elected last year so that, over the last two months, about 2.5 acres of rainforest have been cleared every minute on average. "They don't want us to speak because we'll say the truth, that conservation areas are being invaded and destroyed," the official says. There's the potential for a global impact as the rainforest plays a vital role in sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yet there's "a government attempt to show the data is wrong, to show the numbers don't portray the reality."
Satellite images show "a sharp increase in clearances of trees over the first half of this year," per the BBC. And that's during a relatively wet period. Typically, deforestation ramps up in drier months. Government officials have long sought to limit such activities, but Bolsonaro favors development over conservation, believing hydroelectric plants and other projects are needed to bring prosperity to Brazil, which is home to 60% of the Amazon basin. "Let's use the riches that God gave us for the well-being of our population," the Washington Post quotes the president as saying during a recent visit to the Amazon, where he suggested an ecological reserve welcome miners. Experts are worried, too, with some believing the rainforest will be unable to heal itself—leading to drier, hotter weather cycles—within 20 to 30 years, if deforestation rates keep ticking up. (Read more Brazil stories.)